How to Use the Multinomial Distribution in Python

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The Multinomial Distribution is a generalization of the binomial distribution. While the binomial distribution represents the outcome of binary experiments (like a coin toss with two possible outcomes – heads or tails), the multinomial distribution represents the outcome of experiments with more than two possible outcomes. An example could be rolling a die, where there are six possible outcomes.

In Python, we often use the numpy and scipy libraries to work with distributions including the multinomial distribution.

Multinomial Distribution in Python

Let’s break down how to use the multinomial distribution in Python.

Generating Multinomial Distributions

First, we import the necessary libraries:

import numpy as np
from scipy.stats import multinomial
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

Now, let’s generate a multinomial distribution. Imagine we have a six-sided die (with sides 1 to 6). We roll the die 10 times. The probability of getting each side is 1/6.

# number of trials
n = 10

# probability of each outcome
p = [1/6, 1/6, 1/6, 1/6, 1/6, 1/6]

# random seed for reproducibility

# generate multinomial distribution
rv = multinomial.rvs(n, p, size=1000)

print(rv[:5])  # print first five trial outcomes

In the above code, rvs is used to generate random variables following the multinomial distribution. The output shows the result of the first five experiments (or trials). Each row corresponds to an experiment, and each column corresponds to the number of times a certain outcome occurred in that experiment.

Visualizing Multinomial Distributions

Visualization often helps to understand the distribution better. We can use a bar chart to visualize the number of times we get each outcome over multiple experiments:

# sum the outcomes
outcome_sums = rv.sum(axis=0)

# x-axis labels
labels = ['1', '2', '3', '4', '5', '6']

# create bar chart, outcome_sums)

# labels and title
plt.title('Multinomial Distribution of Dice Roll Outcomes')

# show the plot

The plot gives a visual representation of the outcomes of our multiple dice-rolling experiments. As expected, given a large number of trials, the outcomes are fairly evenly distributed because the die is fair and each face has an equal probability of occurrence.


The multinomial distribution is a useful tool when dealing with experiments with more than two possible outcomes. Python, with libraries such as numpy and scipy, provides a powerful environment to generate and work with multinomial distributions. As with any statistical tool, understanding the assumptions and appropriate usage of the multinomial distribution is essential to producing valid results.

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